This is one of the most highly rated Heyer books on Goodreads, but I just don’t understand why.
The heroine is an ingenue with a little bit of spirit to her, and generally quite a nice and intelligent character. She is sexually molested (kissed and held down) by the hero on their first encounter, in something that feels very much like it could easily have turned into a rape scene. She’s outraged, but seems to go straight to being friends with the hero without thinking much about what he did. There’s quite a lot of moralising about how it’s in men’s natures to cheat and they can’t help themselves and boohoo poor men they are always so misused and noble, whereas the woman who cheats is such a pathetic slut.
Everything he had done since he had seen himself as a laughing-stock (and she neither knew nor cared to what depths he might have sunk) she perceived to be part of a pattern made inevitable by a wanton’s betrayal.
And all for a little, plump, black-eyed slut, older than himself, whose marriage-ring and noble degree hid the soul of a courtesan!
That passage is from the point of view of the heroine as she thinks about the hero. This is the second time I’ve tried to read Venetia, and the first time I couldn’t stand it and had to put it away because of that very passage as far as I remember. I suppose it must be an historically accurate representation of that society’s prevalent opinions, but I just don’t like it.
“Do you imagine he would be faithful to you?”
“I don’t know,” said Venetia. “I think he will always love me. You see, we are such dear friends.”
I feel like the book tries to be a bit more realistic and nuanced than your standard Heyer, with Venetia having to come to terms with the hero’s nature and having to accept it. I think it’s the fact that it takes itself a bit more seriously which really puts me off and makes it harder to dismiss the slut shaming and constant soothing of men’s egos which occurs throughout the book. It’s infuriating.
I like Georgette Heyer’s heroines because generally they are sparky, don’t take any bullshit (especially the Grand Sophy!), are strong-willed and generally fun to spend book-time with. Venetia wasn’t, and the situation in the book was horrible.